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Post Kantian Philosophy

Module Code: PI4041

Module Name: Post Kantian Philosophy

  • ECTS Weighting: 5/10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lecture
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Professor Lilian Alweiss

Module Content

When we think or speak we cannot avoid making use of the personal pronoun. We say 'I think', 'I am in pain', 'I am hungry' or 'I was born in the last century'. In all these instances reference to a bearer of thought seems inevitable. Yet there are many who wish to convince us that what seems inevitable in everyday speech, is nothing other than a linguistic convention. The words 'I' and 'my' are mere adornments of speech. There is a 'necessity of syntax' which compells us to speak of a positional self, however as soon as we have a closer look we come to realise that the pronoun 'I' is not a place-holder for anything in particular. Indeed, without much trouble we can replace 'I was thinking' with 'there was thinking going on', and 'I am in pain' with 'there is pain' since there is no self separable from the thought or the sensation of pain. Proof of this is that we cannot percieve such a self but only objects of thoughts, feelings, sensations or impressions. Against this view, this course wishes to show why we need to hold fast to the claim that 'I' is a referring expression. There is something distinctive about the use of the first person pronoun. No description, not even ones containing indexicals (other than the first person pronouns themselves) can be substituted for 'I'. We shall do this by focusing, in particular, on the writings of Wittgenstein, Kant and Husserl.

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module, students will be able to:

  • critically reflect upon the problem of the self;
  • engage with the problem of self-consciousness, self-reference and the unity of consciousness;
  • demonstrate an understanding of how these problems have been dealt with by Locke, Hume, Kant, Husserl and Sartre.